Stevenson Motorsports team manager Mike Johnson gambled by giving Andy Lally only two tires on the team’s final pit stop in Saturday’s Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
That put Lally in the lead in the on the final restart with 45 minutes remaining. Lally never looked back, holding off charging Billy Johnson by 1.014 seconds to score his first victory of the season in the No. 9 Stevenson Auto Group Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.R started by Matt Bell.
“Everyone knows that this is a driver’s track,” Lally said after taking his eighth career victory in the Continental Tire Challenge. “This is a very special place, and it really takes guts to get through the high-speed corners. It’s a real blast to drive.”
Seeing the competition take on four tires, team manager Mike Johnson gambled on giving Lally two tires on his final stop to give him track position. From there on, it was up to his driver.
“We knew we had to play the track position game,” said Lally – who last won for Johnson at Barber Motorsports Park in 2004 when the team won the GRAND-AM Rolex Series SGS title. “Two tires was big. We knew the BMW [driven by John Edwards] had the legs on us in top speed. We beat them out of the pits, and it was ‘game on’ after that.”
Johnson passed Multimatic Motorsports teammate Scott Maxwell with two laps remaining and took advantage of lapped traffic to challenge at the checkered flag in the No. 158 Miller Racing Ford Mustang Boss 302R started by Ian James. Maxwell and co-driver Jade Buford rounded out the Grand Sport (GS) podium in the No. 15 Ford Racing Mustang Boss 302R.
Driving the No. 46 Fall-Line Motorsports BMW M3, Trent Hindman ran in the top three throughout the opening hour before turning the car over to Edwards – who led 24 laps up until the critical pit stop. Edwards went on to finish fourth, followed by polesitter and early race leader Andrew Davis and co-driver Robin Liddell – who have won two races this season in the No. 6 Stevenson Auto Group Camaro Z/28.R.
Rum Bum Racing gambled by having starting driver Nick Longhi pit early to turn the No. 13 Porsche 911 over to Matt Plumb, but lost a lap due to a caution. While Plumb managed to get back on the lead lap, he finished ninth.
Unofficially, Hindman now leads Plumb by six points (182-176) after the pair entered the event tied for the GS points lead.
After suffering back-to-back heartbreakers when the No. 04 BBA Accounting/DE Labs Porsche Cayman failed in the closing minutes, Canadian driver Remo Ruscitti was not to be denied in his first race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
The 20-year-old from Burnaby, British Columbia took the Street Tuner (ST) class lead with two laps remaining and held off Eric Foss and Andrew Carbonell to take the first Continental Tire Challenge victory for himself, co-driver Adam Isman and Autometrics Motorsports.
“We’re more relieved than excited – although it hasn’t really sunk in yet,” said Ruscitti, who fell out of contention when his clutch failed while fighting for the lead at Kansas Speedway with 15 minutes remaining, and then ran out of fuel while leading at Watkins Glen International with seven minutes to go.
“We’ve been really quick the last couple rounds but things haven’t gone our way. Finally, things fell into place and I was able to drive to the front. I had a great battle with Eric, and I’m really happy to win.”
Ruscitti came out on top in a thrilling, three-way battle for the lead with Foss and Carbonell over the final 15 minutes. Foss held the lead at what proved to be the final restart with 38 minutes remaining. Up until that point, Foss and pole-winning teammate Jeff Mosing had dominated the race in the No. 56 Murillo Racing/Mosing Autocars BMW 328i.
The gloves came off when the green flag waved, with Ruscitti, Foss and Carbonell – seeking his third victory of the season in the No. 26 Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5 started by Randy Pobst – swapping positions back and forth all the way to the checkered flag. Foss ultimately wound up second, followed closely by Carbonell in third.
The second-place finish unofficially gave the ST points lead to Foss by eight points over Wayne Nonnamaker – who finished sixth in the No. 42 Team Sahlen Porsche Cayman started by his brother Will – and nine points over the No. 81 BimmerWorld BMW 328i tandem of Greg Liefooghe and Tyler Cooke, who entered the race with the class points lead but finished 10th.
The next race for the Continental Tire Challenge will be at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Friday, July 25.
RESULTS: Canadian Tire Motorsport Park